Submitted by Funeral Alternatives
After a death, the family often wants to memorialize or celebrate the life lived. Whether in religious or non-religious format, the opportunity to remember and to participate can be healing for both family and the community. Here are some ideas that were meaningful to families we’ve served.
Tabletop displays: Creating a table showing the loved ones’ interests or craft is a great way to reflect on the life lived, along with pictures or collages put together on standing easels.
In a recent service the deceased was a rancher. The family brought bales of hay and placed a saddle on top with a rope hanging over the saddle horn. On a display table they had spurs and horseshoes, mixed among photos.
This expression stimulated both sight and smell, as the hay bales offered the smell of the ranch. Another sense to remember is sound, and music can set the stage. Music can be an important part of the time together and be reflective of the life lived.
Music: There are usually three parts: prelude, special musical selections played during the service, and postlude. Some families will combine special music and photos in a video presentation as a part of the service.
One service featured a barbershop quartet that sang as a tribute to their fallen member. In another service a concert pianist played, while in another the family sang the “family” song.
Rose Petal Ceremony: Often times a “feature table” can be a focal point during the service, displaying photos of the deceased, flowers, candles, or the urn. We’ve displayed letterman jackets, boots, fishing gear, uniforms and more.
Many families will do a “rose petal ceremony.” A dozen roses or so are placed on the feature table with a container. At the end of the service, attendees are invited to step forward, pluck a rose petal and place it in the container. The petals represent the love, prayers and memories of those who attend.
The container used can be very personal to the deceased. We have seen cut glass bowls, favorite cereal bowls, hats, boots, toolboxes and tackle boxes. The petals can then be placed with the body in the casket or with the cremated remains, symbolizing the ongoing love of friends and family.
The service: A leader keeps things moving in an orderly fashion. If you have a clergy person, they will walk you through things. If you do not have a church family, we have “celebrants” available who can lead the event. Also, a family member or friend can be a perfect leader.
The service content can include prayer, scripture, poems, music and eulogies. The eulogy can be as simple as the written obituary, or a detailed story. It can include personal experiences from the presenter and family members, expressed personally or written down for someone else to read.
Stories and personal experiences can be an important part of the service time, where friends attending can share their thoughts. You can invite just specific people to speak or provide their thoughts in writing or open it to everyone.
Reception: We often see a reception after the service or the reception becomes the service itself. Sharing food and drink offers a nice transition, encouraging everyone to share stories in an informal setting.
The options to provide a meaningful event for survivors are vast. Hopefully some of these ideas will help you generate some of your own. The most important thing we can do is remember the life that was lived and celebrate!
Funeral Alternatives of Washington, Inc.
Two convenient locations:
455 North Street SE in Tumwater
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